MANILA, Philippines – Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa appeared before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Monday, January 22, for an initial hearing over a complaint for cyber libel.
Ressa was complying with a subpoena served by the NBI Cybercrime Division. Others who were subpoenaed – former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr and businessman Benjamin Bitanga – did not appear.
Ressa said Rappler was not given a copy of the complaint when the subpoena was served. The complaint was filed by Wilfredo Keng, a businessman who was the subject of an investigative report written by Santos and published in May 2012.
“We have nothing to hide, I’m right here. We don’t have a copy of the complaint, so I don’t know what kinds of questions they will ask, but we’re not afraid,” Ressa said before she proceeded to the cybercrime division with her lawyers.
Sought for legal input, Sol Mawis, Dean of the Lyceum Law School, told Rappler in a phone interview that the Cybercrime Law cannot be invoked in the case since all criminal laws are not retroactive.
The report was published in May 2012, but the law was enacted only in September 2012.
But Cybercrime Division chief Manuel Eduarte said the theory of continuous publication can be applied, meaning Keng could be presumed to have seen the report only after enactment.
Mawis does not agree. “It cannot be a continuing crime because there’s only one criminal intent. If you published today, your criminal intent today would be different from your criminal intent tomorrow.”
All 3 subpoenas, signed by NBI Director Dante Gierran, were dated January 10, a day before the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled to revoke Rappler Inc’s registration.
On January 17, Justice Sectetary Vitaliano Aguirre II formally authorized the NBI to conduct a case buildup against Rappler over issues of corporate foreign control and possible violations of the anti-dummy law.
Aguirre said the probe could also look into “other laws” that may have been violated by Rappler.
Rappler slammed the investigation as a fishing expedition, meant to harass the news organization and silence a critical press. – Rappler.com